Second, reinforce your child's contributions to the conversation with positive affirmations, and, more importantly, by repeating their answers and weaving their content into the overall story the two of you are creating together. Although repeating a child's answers might feel unnatural at first, doing so helps them to feel heard and understood, and it helps to elicit more information from them. You may find that after repeating or lightly summarizing their response, they add another layer of detail. (This type of reflecting is a useful technique in any parenting situation in which you want your child to share and to feel validated.)
Third, include in the discussion what you and your child were each thinking and feeling during the event, or your unique internal states . Don't be afraid to talk about differences in each of your experiences because doing so will teach your child that their perspective is unique, which aids in their development of theory of mind . Indeed, mothers who have styles of reminiscing that are highly elaborate, have kids who are better at perspective taking.
It is important to allow your child to have a different perspective than your own, rather than imposing our own experience of the event onto them. Although it is tempting to only accentuate the positives within the memory (especially if we get caught up in wanting our kids to remember the good stuff the most clearly!), discussion of negative emotions also provides opportunity for important teachable moments.
The added bonus to all of this is that kids of mothers who reminisced with great elaboration, also had better literacy skills. Reminiscing places a significant linguistic demand on the child and provides them with practice in relaying sequences of information. Reminiscing also goes well beyond a cognitive task by creating a shared history together that fosters emotional bonds. Elaboration in reminiscing style is also related to better quality attachment and relationship between child and mother.
Personally, I'm also looking forward to doing more of this with Leo, and eventually Emilia, because it helps me to slow down and fully experience our lives together. I find that in the bustle of the day-to-day, I can get more focused on the details involved in arriving on time and leaving the house with the many supplies we need than on the big picture of being fully present in all the happy memories we arecreating and sharing.
Thanks, Elizabeth.Now go create some memories, lacrosse camp and dental appoinment be damned. Forget the cell phone and the plug for the boat once in a while. Check out Elizabeth's blog where she brings psychological theory and research to honest everyday stories about her kids and being a parent. I trust her children will have plenty of positive moments for the Family History Project (fourth grade?) as her posts are both accessible and educational and she writes in a kind and knowing voice that I imagine comforts many people seeking her professional help. Girlfriend also believe the experts can get "stumped from time to time."
Caio. I'm off to work on the The Summer My Mother Taught Me So Many Valuable Life Skills and I Just Thought We Were Having Fun Story.
Now go read Elizabeth's blog.